June 17, 2018 / 8:27 PM / in 5 months

Minor leak observed at Vedanta's south Indian copper smelter - official

MADURAI, India, June 18 (Reuters) - A minor leak has been detected in the sulphuric acid storage plant in Vedanta’s south Indian copper smelter, a government official said on Sunday, about a month after the state ordered its shutdown after protests in which 13 people died.

Police opened fire on a crowd of protesters on May 22 calling for the shutdown on the grounds of pollution. The Tamil Nadu state government then ordered a permanent shutdown.

“A leakage was observed in the sulphuric acid storage plant. It doesn’t look problematic, but we have decided to evacuate the storage tomorrow as a safety precaution,” Sandeep Nanduri, the district’s top administrative official, said on Sunday.

Vedanta Ltd, the Indian subsidiary of Vedanta Resources PLC which operates the smelter, did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

The smelter accounted for over a third of India’s refined copper output, and India is set to see a rise in copper imports following the shutdown.

Sulphuric acid, a corrosive byproduct of smelting, is used by fertilizer and chemical companies as a raw material. (Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; editing by Andrew Roche)

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